"Svenska Aeroplan AB (aktiebolaget)" (Swedish for "Swedish Aeroplane Limited") (SAAB) was founded in 1937 in Trollhättan, with the merger of SAAB and Linköping based ASJA. The headquarters moved to Linköping. The style "Saab" replaced "SAAB" around 1950.
Originally manufacturing airplanes, the company sought ways in which to diversify its business and in the late 1940s started to manufacture automobiles. The Saab Automobile division was based in Trollhättan. The first car was the Saab 92001 on 10 June, 1947. The company soon developed a reputation for safe and reliable automobiles, with a notable competition history.
In the late 1950s Saab ventured into the computer market with Datasaab. The company was a result partly of the need of heavy computational power for the aircraft development to make a computer that would be small enough to mount in an aeroplane as navigational equipment. During the 1960s several successful and advanced systems were developed and sold to several European countries (used in e.g. banking). The aircraft computer (CK 37) was achieved in 1971 in the Viggen. The now less successful company was sold off in 1975 to Sperry UNIVAC, while flight computer development was kept in Saab.
In May 1965, the company name was changed to Saab AB to reflect its broad range of activities. In 1968 Saab AB merged with the truck maker Scania-Vabis, and between 1969 and 1995 the company was called Saab-Scania AB. General Motors bought 51 percent of the automobile division Saab Automobile in 1990, and acquired the rest a decade later.
During changes in company ownership in the 1990s, the company name once again became Saab AB.
Since 1998 the British aerospace company BAE Systems has been the largest shareholder in Saab following its acquisition of a 35% stake from Investor AB by its predecessor, British Aerospace. In January 2005 BAE reduced its shareholding to 20%, which it views as a long term interest. Investor AB also maintains a 20% share. Investor AB hold 38% of the voting rights and is with the other Wallenberg institutions the majority owner.
The main focus of aircraft production is fighter aircraft. Saab has been making airplanes since the 1930s, and the purely jet predecessors to the Gripen were the Tunnan, the Lansen, the Draken and the Viggen. The last civilian models made by Saab were the Saab 340 and Saab 2000. Both were mid-range, turboprop-powered, passenger planes. The development and the manufacturing of these airplanes takes place in Linköping, Sweden.